Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dragon Swims as Space Freight Race Continues Using All Facets of Logistics

Multimodal Transport Needed to Return Precious Cargo
Shipping News Feature

US – SPACE – Following its first and successful freight resupply mission, whose launch we covered last month, the SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft returned to earth from the International Space Station (ISS), safely splashing down approximately 250 miles off the coast of Southern California. Dragon departed the station with 1,673 pounds of return cargo including hardware, supplies, and a GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer packed with scientific samples. Dragon is the only craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies to Earth, and this mission marks the first time since the space shuttle that NASA has been able to return research samples for analysis.

The SpaceX recovery team transported the spacecraft by boat to a port near Los Angeles, where early cargo was delivered to NASA. The Dragon was then transported to SpaceX's facility in McGregor, Texas for processing. In a truly intermodal movement space freight can be added to the traditional air, road and water borne facets of logistics, all of which have now been involved in this project at some stage. From the Texas facility the remaining cargo was delivered on to NASA. SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk commented:

"This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo. The reliability of SpaceX's technology and the strength of our partnership with NASA provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come."

The mission, called CRS-1, began October 7, when the Falcon 9 rocket launched Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX and NASA are currently investigating an anomaly that occurred with one of Falcon 9's first-stage engines during the launch. Analysis to date supports initial findings: the engine experienced a rapid loss of pressure and Falcon 9's flight computer immediately commanded shutdown, as it is designed to do in such cases. The team will continue to meticulously analyze all data in an effort to determine root cause and will apply those findings to future flights.

This mission is the first of at least twelve to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. The second resupply mission is to take place on the 15th of December 2012.

Photo: The logistics involved in shipping the capsule back to shore take a more traditional freight format.